Here at the start of a brave New Year, the travelling RPG Blog Carnival is back at Tales of a GM. It is a great pleasure to host the carnival for another January. My nominated theme is Prophecies & Omens.
- See the Prophecies & Omens launch post for more details.
- In my first contribution, I outlined bird auguries in RPGs
- My second contribution presented five tables to randomly generate auguries
- With part three, I explored the most famous source of prophecies in the Ancient World.
Aside from the summary post, I expect this to be my fourth and final contribution to the Prophecies & Omens Blog Carnival. To round out my coverage of this topic, I present a series of tables for generating random prophecies.
The best prophecies are tailored to your campaign, worded to allow a broad interpretation. If you are running a High Fantasy game, then the prophecy probably relates to either the downfall of the campaign villain, or the identity of the hero who will precipitate this downfall. I recommend leaving yourself a degree of flexibility in the text of the prophecy, to allow for Player agency.
However, sometimes you just want a random prophecy at short notice. These tables help you in this circumstance. Six rolls generate a random prophecy, from a possible 64 million combinations. If we discard duplicates in the same prophecy, these tables still create over 54 million outcomes.
Breaking Down the Prophecy
The process begins with this simple breakdown of a generic prophecy. In essence, a prophecy links together a prediction and a trigger. The prediction is the future event, and the trigger outlines when the prediction will occur. I see the framework of a generic prophecy like this:
When the [adjective] [noun] [verb], then the [adjective] [noun] will [verb].
Each half of the model prophecy contains an event, composed of an action being taken by someone or something. Breaking the event down further, the action is signified by the randomly generated verb. Likewise, the noun performing the action, be it a person or thing, is also randomly generated. To add colour and additional variety to the prophecy, an adjective is added to describe each noun.
In many ways, the adjective is the most important part to the prophecy. In a world with many kings, the adjective helps define the subject of the prophecy. The adjective can also add uncertainty into a prophecy. A king could be broken in many different ways: physically, emotionally or politically. How can anyone tell if this is the last king? In many of the generated prophecies, the GM finds the most flexibility surrounding the adjectives.
Rolling up a Prophecy
The best way to generate a random prophecy is to roll three d20s at a time. Ideally, use different colours for each part of the prophecy. Thus, use red for the adjective, blue for the noun and green for the verb. Roll twice, noting the results each time, and there is a new prophecy.
Even with 20 entries for each column, repeat results are possible. This may not be a problem for the noun entry. A prophecy related to the transition of power from one king to another may repeat the noun. As a rule of thumb, however, avoid repeated adjectives or verbs in the same prophecy. Either re-roll the repeated entry, use the next on the list, take a result from another colour die or simply choose an interesting alternative.
Roll on Table 1 to create both adjectives for the prophecy.
Roll on Table 2 to generate the nouns for your prophecy
Roll on Table 3 to find the verbs for your prophecy.
Chris at Ennead Games has posted an online version of these tables at his website. Now it is even easier to generate random prophecies.
Massaging the Prophecy
After six rolls, you have a new prophecy to challenge the Players. Assuming there are no repeat entries in the results, there remain a couple more ways for you to polish the prophecy. Adjust the verbs into the correct tenses: arise becomes “arises” or “will arise” in the prophecy.
You may also want to formalize the language, or otherwise make the text more flowery to add greater flavour to the prophecy:
“It is written in the stars that . . .”
“The lost scrolls told how . . .”
“In the time of . . . it is written that . . .”
Many contributions to the Prophecies & Omens Blog Carnival discussed the problems and limitations of using prophecies in an RPG. This is all good advice, but offered little help on creating the text of a prophecy. The GM can always create a bespoke prophecy for their setting, but sometimes it is helpful to have a way of randomly generating prophecies. These tables allow you to quickly create a wide range of predictions for you setting. Use the prophecy as rolled, massage the text into something more ominous, or simply take inspiration from the events outlined.
How will you use these tables in your game? Can you think of a better format for a prophecy? What actions would you want predicted? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
- Read all the current entries to the January Carnival at my launch post here.
- The RPG Blog Carnival is under the stewardship of Johnn Four, at his Roleplaying Tips website.
- See my Index page for a full list of all my RPG Blog Carnival contributions.
- The host for the December event was 6d6 RPG, where the topic was garbage and sewers.
- Do you need more Tales?
If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:
- Something for the Weekend last week: Prophecies & Omens part 3, Oracle Temples
- Something for the Weekend next week: Prophecies & Omens Summary